Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea each recorded important victories following an action-packed midweek Premier League fixture-list. Manchester City were the solitary top six club to fail to win following a 2-2 draw at Birmingham while Tottenham eked out a narrow 1-0 win at Blackburn.
Once the January transfer madness finally died down it was no surprise to see the clubs who spent the most amount of money – Liverpool and Chelsea – were the ones who immediately resurrected their respective title (and Champions League qualification) ambitions with victories over Stoke City and Sunderland respectively.
Never before has a January transfer window seen so much money spent by the majority of the top ranked English Premier League clubs but are the vast sums of transfer fees paid out likely to restore the natural order at the summit of the table?
Chelsea and Liverpool
Three of the top five ranked clubs each spent a minimum of 27 million pounds during January and Tottenham would have enlarged that figure further had any of their seemingly countless bids for a striker been accepted. The 2012 / 2013 season marks the beginning of the enforcement of FIFA’s new ruling on football clubs needing to balance their books.
Yet Chelsea’s decision to purchase Torres from Liverpool (£50 million) and Luiz from Benfica (£26 million plus add-ons) is the clearest indication that Roman Abramovich’s increasingly desperate bid to claim the Champions League trophy shows little sign of slowing up. Chelsea have also indicated they will spend big during the summer and the London club can easily manage 100 million worth of transfers the only difference from their first summer splurge under Mourinho being they will likely need to sell to recoup some of the Russian oligarch’s outlay.
Kenny Dalglish has managed net spending of £2 million thanks to the acquisition of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez from the sale of Torres to Chelsea. The result has been three consecutive victories but the real acid test of Liverpool’s revival will occur at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Any new money invested by the club’s American owners should also see additional forays into the transfer market during the summer months. Despite a recent upsurge in form it is clear Liverpool will need to invest again if they are to keep pace with the current top four/ five clubs.
What is clear from both Chelsea and Liverpool’s recent spending is that both have realised that a further infusion of players is needed to remain in the hunt for honours following indifferent Premier League form since the beginning of the 2010 / 2011 season.
Both sides must reduce their wage bill ahead of the 2012 / 2013 season but expect Liverpool and Chelsea to be active in the summer transfer market in an effort to retain European qualification. Chelsea look set to finish in the top four but Liverpool look set to miss a Champions League berth once again despite the stability brought about by the appointment of Dalglish.
Manchester United and Arsenal
Contrasting the money paid out by Chelsea and Liverpool during January is the fact Manchester United and Arsenal didn’t spend a penny and yet remain the two most likely title contenders heading into the second half of the campaign. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s philosophy that it is pointless in purchasing players halfway through the season due to the time it will take for them to bed in to a new system / squad seems a valid one as both Arsenal and United continue to surge ahead at the top of the Premier League table.
Another salient point with regard to both Ferguson and Wenger’s purchasing prowess is their pursuit of young, raw (and relatively cheap) talent rather than paying out constant huge fees for seasoned internationals. Arsenal’s recent turnover of 56 million demonstrates the Emirates club’s ability to seamlessly adhere to FIFA’s rule change in 2013 and the Gunners look set to challenge for the title with the youngest average age for a Premier League title-chasing first team squad.
Two of the most successful Premier League managers of all time remain the yard-stick for the would-be challengers because Ferguson and Wenger conduct their business during the summer and let the madness of the January transfer window pass them by. Expect both United and Arsenal to continue their assault on the Premier League title for the coming season and beyond.
Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur
It would be remiss to ignore the progress made by both Man City and Spurs in recent seasons as both can lay claim to a place amongst the Premier League elite (Tottenham’s qualification for the 2011 Champions League and Man City looking increasingly likely to be involved next year).
Breaking the regular top-four stranglehold was seen as something of changing of the guard by Tottenham but their qualification coincided with a dramatic turn of fortunes at Liverpool both on and off the field. Harry Redknapp has done a superb job with a talented Spurs first team squad but failure to re-invest in their defence during the January window now sees the North London club struggling to keep pace as injuries begin to mount.
Manchester City’s massive investment from Abu Dhabi has seen Roberto Mancini guide the Eastland club into the top four for much of the current campaign. The arrival of new striker Dzeko for over 27 million represented their only ‘big’ outlay during January. City have the money to purchase virtually any player they require although failure to regularly finish in the top four would seriously damage their hopes of competing for top transfer targets .
Spurs’ current injury woes and Liverpool’s inability to close the gap following a torrid start to the season should see Manchester City finish in the top four and gain qualification for the lucrative Champions League.
The Eastlands club are the big benefactors as Liverpool and Spurs’ struggles continue so expect Manchester City to be the ones to break the usual top-four order at the end of the 2010/2011 campaign.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent playing amateur football in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here